The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra to Tour Kenya

October 28, 2013

The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Octet of the National Museum of American History will present several concerts and workshops in Kenya on a tour Nov. 1-10. These programs, featuring music and songs by jazz greats Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter and Sidney Bechet, will be held at various educational institutions and concert halls across the city of Nairobi, including Technical University of Kenya, the Conservatoire, Kenyatta University and Daystar University.

The tour is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, with the intention to bring Kenyan and American music connoisseurs and students together through the appreciation of jazz as a unique American genre. The tour bridges cultures and promotes the shared values of freedom, cultural diversity, innovation, individuality and creative collaboration. The band consists of eight musicians led by Charlie Young who serves as the SJMO’s artistic director and conductor, and performs on woodwinds.

The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra was founded in 1990 with an appropriation from the U.S. Congress in recognition of the importance of jazz in American culture and its status as a national treasure. The 17-member big band, led by Conductor and Artistic Director Young, serves as the orchestra-in-residence at the National Museum of American History. Its concerts, by the full orchestra and smaller groups, include transcribed works, as well as new arrangements, commissioned works and programs that illuminate the contributions of small ensembles and jazz masters who contributed to the development of American jazz and defined the music’s character. More information about the SJMO is available at

The museum is home to the world’s largest museum collection of jazz history—artifacts from Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Tito Puente and many other creative giants. The museum established Jazz Appreciation Month in 2001, now celebrated every April throughout the United States and in more than 30 countries, and the renowned Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. We help people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is currently renovating its West exhibition wing, developing galleries on business, democracy and culture. For more information, visit The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.